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Instead, they're being told to battle over the separate issue of sequestration.
Sequestration--the massive forced cuts in government spending that were delayed by the "fiscal cliff" deal-- will happen automatically on March 1 unless Congress votes to change it. The fight over that issue promises to be just as bruising at the debt ceiling.
The debt ceiling, meanwhile, has to be raised by Congress sometime in the next two months from the current $16.394 trillion or the U.S. won't be able to pay its bills.
"It would be a grave mistake to use the debate on the debt ceiling to get President Obama to agree to spending cuts," Alan Simpson, co-founder of the Campaign to Fix the Debt and former GOP senator from Wyoming told CNBC's "Closing Bell" Tuesday.
"I know they're (GOP lawmakers) going to try it and how far they'll go with that game of chicken I have no idea," said Simpson, who was co-chair of the Simpson-Bowles Commission that looked at reducing government debt.
Other conservatives like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have also warned against holding up the debt ceiling vote. So have the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Round Table-- with each saying it would be bad politics and hurt the GOP's standing with the public.
And now, a group funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers--Charles and David--is calling for the GOP to pull back during debt ceiling talks.
"We're saying focus on overspending instead of long-term debt," Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity said in an interview. "We're going to have a hard line on the sequester cuts."
President Obama has declared that he won't negotiate over the debt ceiling. He's said that raising the ceiling does not authorize any new spending but simply allows the government to continue to pay for obligations to which Congress has already agreed. Even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has backed that view.
Source: CNBC | Mark Koba